the latest blockbuster suspense thriller from Adrian McKinty, the author
of the best-selling The Chain and six well-regarded police procedurals with titles based off of Tom Waits lyrics set in
Northern Ireland during “The Troubles” era featuring a Protestant cop named
Sean Duffy. The Chain is well-known for its killer
premise, addictive pacing and plot twists; The Island shares several of
The premise of The Island is apparently sourced from an actual incident experienced by McKinty that didn’t go as wildly wrong as what happens in the book: a car accident on a private island a short ferry trip from a major city (Melbourne in this case) where a single family has controlled life (and death) for multiple generations. In McKinty’s real-life version the accident was avoided and no one was harmed, but in the version in The Island a young deaf woman rides her bike suddenly into an oncoming car carrying a vacationing American family of four (a 40-something doctor named Tom, his 20-something second wife Heather and two kids, Olivia, 14 and Owen, 12). The parents, make the fateful decision to leave the scene of the accident in the hope they can resolve whatever consequences occur from the comfort and safety of the mainland. This turns out to be a spectacular bad choice that results in multiple violent deaths.
The Island turns into a suspenseful story of survival as the wife and kids are separated from their husband and father and are literally hunted by the few dozen inhabitants of the island. In such an extreme situation, everyone involved is forced to identify their limits and go beyond them in different ways. Olivia and Owen are recovering from the death of their mom, Tom's first wife and are resentful of Heather, who is much closer to their age then she is to their parents. Heather is still getting used to the idea of being responsible for two teenaged kids at the age of 24 and getting to know her new husband who views the world substantially differently from his perch of privilege and experience. That these emotional undercurrents have to be navigated and resolved while they are trying to escape a life-and-death situation on Dutch Island are the primary narrative fuel of The Island.
McKinty does many things quite well in The
IslandFirst, he successfully gets the reader to invest in the fate of the
characters. He provides the reader with the internal thoughts of multiple
characters and uses this mechanism to help the reader connect emotionally with
them, especially Heather. Second, he writes action scenes incredibly
compellingly, and there is a LOT of action (and violence) in The Island.
Third, he is not afraid to have real consequences for the characters for the
decisions they make. Because, there are serious (and life-changing) injuries
inflicted on multiple characters, this raises the stakes for the reader in
speculating about the possible fates for the character or characters we are
invested in knowing what happens to in the end.
That’s not to say The Island is not without flaws. It is so obvious about its intent to be breathlessly suspenseful that at times the plot becomes wildly unrealistic and shamelessly manipulative. But once the reader gives into the breakneck pace of the plot and accepts that The Island is going to be a roller-coaster, the book is an enjoyable bit of fluff (and its quite a quick read at 384 pages).
Apparently The Island is being made into a streaming “television” series for Hulu, which I think will work well. I could see it turned into an addictive suspense drama like Fox’s 24 where every hour/episode ends with a cliffhanger.
Overall, I would recommend The Island to anyone who read and enjoyed The Chain (which according to sales figures, critical acclaim and social media buzz, is a LOT of people!).
Title: The Island
Author: Adrian Mckinty.
Length: 384 pages.
Publisher: Little, Brown.
Date Published: May 17, 2022.
Date Read: November 18, 2022.
OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).